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Gainesville hires firm to update land-use plan
Community participation will be ongoing throughout process
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Gainesville is ready to move forward with its comprehensive land-use plan, a report that will outline community development goals for the next 20 years.

Gainesville City Council members approved Atlanta-based firm Urban Collage Inc. as a consultant to help city staff to update its plan by June 30, 2012.

The company will work with Atlanta sub-consultants Clark Patterson Lee, Huntley and Associates, Bleakly Advisory Group and Gainesville's Jaeger Company for $150,000 from the city's general capital projects fund.

"This 20-year blueprint for growth guides elected officials and staff in everyday decision-making," said Gainesville's planning director Rusty Ligon. "Our current plan was adopted in 2004. This is a 12-month process, so it will take us every bit of that time to form the new plan."

The state requires updated land-use plans from counties and cities every 10 years, which include future goals for housing, human services, natural resources, the environment, historic and cultural resources and infrastructure.

Urban Collage uses the "art of collage" to assemble elements into a unique composition. The designers emphasize diversity, connectivity and sustainability. Its recent projects include the Suwanee Town Center, downtown Dahlonega and downtown Norcross.

Building on the 2004 plan, Community Development Department staff will continue to work on neighborhood planning units, the midtown overlay zone and Green Street's historic designation.

The plan will also incorporate Vision 2014 from Gainesville Parks and Recreation, Vision 2030 from the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce and the 2040 Metropolitan Transportation Plan by the Gainesville-Hall Metropolitan Planning Organization.

"It's a designed-focus plan, which will emphasize a few character areas," Ligon told City Council members at a recent retreat. "The boundaries will be established so we can see what we want the city to look like in the future."

The character areas will pinpoint spots that could be preserved or need to be enhanced, especially Brenau University properties, Athens Highway, Atlanta Highway and Browns Bridge Road.

"The implementation program is where the rubber meets the road," Ligon said. "We'll be developing a community participation program this summer to get residents involved and show our character area drawings for input."

Hall County administrators proposed filing a joint land-use plan, but since the initial idea in December, city and county officials have decided to tackle their own paperwork. County staff issued a request for proposals to find a consultant and will soon present a name to the Hall County Board of Commissioners for approval.

Both governments will hold public forums to seek input on the overall community vision.

"The community participation will be ongoing throughout this process," Ligon said. "We also intend to have online community forums, use the city's website and even Facebook."

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